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23rd November Current Affairs

Gilgit-Baltistan a part of India, says MEA

In News:

Pakistan is planning to accord provincial status to the “so-called Gilgit-Baltistan”.

 Latest developments:

Pakistan has announced holding elections for the legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan later this month.

Pakistan Supreme Court has also allowed Islamabad to amend a 2018 administrative order to conduct general elections in the region.

The Gilgit-Baltistan Order of 2018 provided for administrative changes, including authorising the Prime Minister of Pakistan to legislate on an array of subjects.

 India’s response:

India has termed this move as an attempt to camouflage the “illegal” occupation of the region by Islamabad.

India has clarified that the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the area of so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’, are an integral part of India by virtue of the legal, complete and irrevocable accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947.

Where is Gilgit Baltistan located?

It borders China in the North, Afghanistan in the west and Kashmir in the south east.

It shares a geographical boundary with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and India considers it as part of the UT of Ladakh, while Pakistan sees it as a separate from PoK.

Key points:

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through this region.

The region is home to five of the “eight-thousanders” and to more than fifty peaks above 7,000 metres (23,000 ft).

Three of the world’s longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Challenges ahead for Pakistan:

This would violate the Karachi Agreement — perhaps the only instrument that provides doubtful legal authority to Pakistan’s administration of GB — as well as the UN resolutions that would damage its position on the Kashmir issue.

Any such move would also be violative of the 1963 Pak-China Boundary Agreement that calls for the sovereign authority to reopen negotiations with China “after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India” and of the 1972 Simla Agreement that mentions that “neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation”.

What is a bulk drug park, and why does Himachal Pradesh want one?

In News:

Himachal Pradesh is vying for the allotment of a bulk drug park under a central government scheme.

The Central Government is planning to setup three such parks across the country.

What are bulk drugs or APIs?

A bulk drug is also called an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API).

It is the key ingredient of a drug or medicine, which lends it the desired therapeutic effect or produces the intended pharmacological activity.

Take for example- Paracetamol– It is a bulk drug, which acts against pain. It is mixed with binding agents or solvents to prepare the finished pharmaceutical product, ie a paracetamol tablet, capsule or syrup, which is consumed by the patient.

How are APIs prepared?

They are prepared from multiple reactions involving chemicals and solvents.

The primary chemical or the basic raw material which undergoes reactions to form an API is called the key starting material, or KSM.

Chemical compounds formed during the intermediate stages during these reactions are called drug intermediates or DIs.

Why is India promoting bulk drug parks?

India has one of the largest pharmaceutical industries in the world (third largest by volume).

But this industry largely depends on other countries, particularly China, for importing APIs, DIs and KSMs.

So, any disruptions in those countries would definitely affect the pharmaceutical industries here in India.

For instance, this year, drug manufacturers in India suffered repeated setbacks due to disruption in imports due to Covid 19.

The border conflict between India and China exacerbated the situation.

So, what India is doing?

Call for greater self-reliance: In June, the department of pharmaceuticals announced a scheme for the promotion of three bulk drug parks in the country.

A bulk drug park will have a designated contiguous area of land with common infrastructure facilities for the exclusive manufacture of APIs, DIs or KSMs, and also a common waste management system.

These parks are expected to bring down manufacturing costs of bulk drugs in the country and increase competitiveness in the domestic bulk drug industry.

Key features of the scheme for promotion of Bulk Drug parks:

The scheme will support three selected parks in the country by providing a one-time grant-in-aid for the creation of common infrastructure facilities.

The grant-in-aid will be 70 per cent of the cost of the common facilities but in the case of Himachal Pradesh and other hill states, it will be 90 per cent.

The Centre will provide a maximum of Rs 1,000 crore per park.

A state can only propose one site, which is not less than a thousand acres in area, or not less than 700 acres in the case of hill states.

What is Army Aviation Corps?

In News:

Army Aviation Corps (AAC) celebrated its 35th Corps Day on November 1.

About AAC:

It is the youngest Corps of the Indian Army.

The Corps was raised as a separate formation on November 1 in 1986.

Composition: The AAC now draws its officers and men from all arms of the Army, including a significant number from the artillery.

Roles and functions:

The main roles played by the AAC choppers are that of reconnaissance, observation, casualty evacuation, essential load drops, combat search and rescue.

The AAC helicopters also participate in Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations in peace times.

In some scenarios, Army helicopters can also act as Airborne Command Posts, replacing the ground command posts if needed.

The fleet:

The AAC currently operates Chetak, Cheetah, Lancer, Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, and ALH Weapon System Integrated (WSI), also known as Rudra.

Distribution of Fortified Rice under ICDS

In News:

In a bid to combat chronic anaemia and undernutrition, the government is planning to distribute fortified rice through the Integrated Child Development Services and Mid-DayMeal schemes across the country.

What is Fortified Rice?

Rice can be fortified by adding a micronutrient powder to the rice that adheres to the grains or spraying of the surface of ordinary rice grains with a vitamin and mineral mix to form a protective coating.

Rice can also be extruded and shaped into partially precooked grain-like structures resembling rice grains, which can then be blended with natural polished rice.

Rice kernels can be fortified with several micronutrients, such as iron, folic acid and other B-complex vitamins, vitamin A and zinc.

These fortified kernels are then mixed with normal rice in a 1:100 ratio, and distributed for consumption.

Note: Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology. It differs from conventional fortification in that Biofortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during the processing of the crops.

What was the earlier initiative?

The centrally-sponsored pilot scheme was approved in February 2019 for a three-year period from 2019-20 onwards.

However, only five States Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh have started the distribution of fortified rice in their identified pilot districts.

Need for expansion:

Currently, there are only 15,000 tonnes of these kernels available per year in the country.

To cover PDS, anganwadis and mid-day meals in the 112 aspirational districts, annual supply capacity would need to be increased to about 1.3 lakh tonnes.

To cover PDS across the country, 3.5 lakh tonnes of fortified kernels would be needed.

Regulating fortification:

FSSAI has formulated a comprehensive regulation on fortification of foods namely ‘Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016’.

These regulations set the standards for food fortification and encourage the production, manufacture, distribution, sale and consumption of fortified foods.

The regulations also provide for the specific role of FSSAI in promotion for food fortification and to make fortification mandatory.

WHO recommends fortification of rice with iron, vitamin A and folic acid as a public health strategy to improve the iron status of population wherever rice is a staple food.

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS):

The ICDS aims to provide food, preschool education, primary healthcare, immunization, health check-up and referral services to children under 6 years of age and their mothers.

The scheme was launched in 1975, discontinued in 1978 by the government of Morarji Desai, and then relaunched by the Tenth Five Year Plan.

The tenth FYP also linked ICDS to Anganwadi centres established mainly in rural areas and staffed with frontline workers.

The ICDS provide for anganwadis or day-care centres which deliver a package of six services including:

Immunization

Supplementary nutrition

Health checkup

Referral services

Pre-school education (Non-Formal)

Nutrition and Health information

Implementation:

For nutritional purposes, ICDS provides 500 kilocalories (with 12-15 grams of protein) every day to every child below 6 years of age.

For adolescent girls, it is up to 500-kilo calories with up to 25 grams of protein every day.

The services of Immunisation, Health Check-up and Referral Services delivered through Public Health Infrastructure under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.